updated 12/5/2005 12:30:17 PM ET 2005-12-05T17:30:17

RealNetworks Inc. will launch a Web-based version of its Rhapsody subscription music service, becoming the latest company hoping to capitalize on growing consumer interest in software and services that can be accessed anywhere via the Internet.

The Web-based Rhapsody service will let users listen to the songs from its catalog over the Internet without downloading the desktop application that is currently required.

That will open Seattle-based RealNetworks' service up to people using Apple Computer Inc. or Linux-based systems.

The system, which is launching Monday in test form, also makes it easier for people who already have the service to use it even when they aren't at their own computers.

However, the Web-based Rhapsody will only let people stream the music.  Anyone wishing to download and buy a song will still need to have the Rhapsody application on a personal computer.

Rhapsody lets people listen to up to 25 songs per month for free, or an unlimited number if they buy one of its paid programs.

RealNetworks Chief Executive Rob Glaser said the company won't be disappointed if most people using the Web-based service choose only to listen to their free allotment of songs, rather than buying a subscription.

"If it turns out the vast majority decide they want to listen for free that's great because the Internet advertising market is doing pretty well, too," he said.

Along with its new Web offering, RealNetworks also unveiled the first step toward longer term plans to get other companies to use the Rhapsody service on their sites.  For example, a Web site devoted to the songwriter Elliott Smith might eventually be able to offer users the chance to listen to Smith's songs on their site, via Rhapsody.

For now, however, Glaser said the service will only be able to offer a link from another site to the Rhapsody service, and users will have to log in with a Rhapsody account to hear the songs.

Glaser said company is hoping to have the more sophisticated offering in the first half of next year.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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